The DNC Army That Could Soon Descend on Swing States
To avoid repeating the errors of 2016, the party is training young people of color to be campaign organizers for the eventual Democratic nominee. ...
The best practices of effective listening are to offer supportive nods, ask clarifying questions, and paraphrase what the speaker has said, an instructor told the students, who were seated in four rows in a windowless classroom. He played three video clips on a projector and asked the students to consider how they were reacting in real time to what they heard: a few minutes of stand-up from the comedian George Carlin, a recording from an NPR segment on the 2020 presidential election, and an interview with a young white woman from the Rust Belt who said she felt forgotten by the politicians in Washington. He reminded the group to have a “learner,” not a “judger,” mind-set. “Don’t make assumptions,” he explained. “Always wonder, Why?”
The lesson, called “Getting to Know the Community,” is part of a new training program from the Democratic National Committee that teaches young people, mostly people of color, how to be campaign organizers. Called Organizing Corps 2020, the eight-week course is designed to school 1,000 college juniors from seven battleground states across the country. The DNC has high hopes for the student trainees: Come summer 2020, it hopes to put them to work for the eventual Democratic presidential nominee.
The initiative seems designed to correct for a longtime problem in political campaigns: the underrepresentation of people of color. But it could also be viewed as the Democrats’ attempt to right the wrongs of 2016—a response to the pervasive criticism that the party failed to invest early, or earnestly, in communities of color; to develop young and emerging talent; and to mobilize disengaged voters from marginalized communities. The effort has been publicly supported by leading Democrats, and even some of the DNC’s most vocal progressive detractors say they feel their concerns are starting to be heard. But there are real logistical questions about the program’s sustainability. And some of those same progressives say they still have serious doubts about the party’s willingness to make long-term investments in young people of color.
To alleviate those doubts, the DNC will have to demonstrate that it’s not trying to harness their energy for only short-term gains in 2020—and that officials want them to have a permanent, high-profile role in the Democratic Party.
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